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Digging for Fossils
Paleo & Archeo Destinations
Family Travel Tips
Digging for Fossils

Unearthing a Stegosaurus


Photo by Dinosaur Safaris, Inc

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By Fodor's

Dinosaurs may be extinct in the real world, but they're alive and well in the hearts and minds of children everywhere. Long before a certain purple dinosaur commandeered the airwaves, dinosaurs were a formidable presence in children's books, games, TV shows, movies, and imaginations.

Ask your average 5-year old how to pronounce hadrosaur, and she'll tell you without stumbling over a syllable. When my own daughter, Kira, was 5, she would quiz her father and me about dinosaurs endlessly, but we never reached her level of expertise. If Dinamation International Society's Family Dino Camp had existed then, I would have taken her in a flash.

Today families can chose among places all over the world where they can dig for bones and help in paleontology labs. Most digs are dinosaur related; however, whale fossil, mammoth and saber-toothed tiger bones, as well as plant related fossils, are found at working digs, and you or someone in your family might be the first to uncover them for all the world to see.

Paleontology is mostly painstaking, slow, hot, and tedious work. Consider in advance whether your child has a real interest in and the personality to enjoy this type of multiday family vacation. Even Dino Camp, which offers a variety of child-friendly activities, is best for youngsters who already appreciate the subject. Of course, some children do discover a love of paleontology once they get involved, but it could just as easily turn out the other way. Teens and parents as well should fully discuss the itinerary, accommodations, hours, and location of a particular trip before committing. These experiences are definitely work. They're also a great fun - if you're into it - and always an incredible learning experience. Because multiday digs can be too much for some families, one-day dig opportunities can be a good way of trying out the experience. Whichever type of adventure you choose, you just might find that at the end of the trip, you'll be able to match your offspring's knowledge, if not their all-embracing love, of these prehistoric wonders.

It is assumed that most people do not know a great deal about the intricacies of digging for fossils, so lectures, talks, and hands-on lessons are very much part of the fun on this type of adventure. Reading lists and other materials about paleontology are often part of the pretrip information for expeditions. Any advance reading you do will definitely enhance your family's experience.

Excerpted from Fodor's Family Adventures by Christine Loomis Copyright 2002 by Fodors LLC, a registered trademark of Random House, Inc. Excerpted by permission of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted in any form without permission in writing from the publisher.
Getting Started
Archaeology and dinosaur dig site conditions and accommodations vary greatly from extremely primitive to modern conveniences and amenities. Some multi-day expeditions include lab work or other paleontology related activities. Others include adventure activities such as river rafting and hiking and cultural visits to nearby monuments. Dig-for-a-day programs, organized by Natural History Museums throughout the world, are one-day digs and provide younger children with an introduction to paleontology.
The Right Trip
Talking directly with the expedition coordinator or leader will help you better understand what the trip entails as well as provide you with an opportunity to discuss your child's ability, experience, and interest with someone who's been out in the field.
Selecting an Outfitter
Find out what is included in the price of the research expedition. On a multi-day trip, accommodation, food and local transportation are likely to be included unless noted otherwise. Transportation to and from the dig site is usually extra. Because accommodation varies greatly, be sure to find out what you are paying for. Day digs generally include lunch and beverages only.
Packing Tips
Digging for fossils is hot and dirty. Even in the desert the best clothing may be long-sleeved cotton shirts and long pants. Boots are preferable to sandals on many sites, and hats can be an important accessory. Expeditioners who will be camping out will probably need to bring their own sleeping bags and, perhaps, tents.
  • What to Wear on a Dig
Health & Safety
Most dinosaur digs take place in locations that are hot and dry. Carry plenty of water, put on sunscreen and wear sunglasses as well as a hat.
Travel Trivia
Which of the following animals are you unlikely to spot in the Wisconsin Northwoods:
Books for Kids about Dinosaurs
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